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USGS Launches Tool for Accessing National Fish Habitat Action Plan Data

National Fish Action Plan Map graphic
The map and data viewer offers multiple views of the current habitat degradation for stream and coastal habitats across the United States. The map's color coding depicts the risk of habitat degradation; plus, users are only a mouse click away from detailed information throughout the nation.
More than 40 percent of U.S. fish populations are in decline and half of our waters are impaired. Over 1,700 organizations, including the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), have partnered for the past decade to reverse that decline and conserve aquatic habitat.

Significant steps forward in this herculean effort were marked with the April 14, 2011, release of the National Fish Habitat Action Plan (NFHAP) report in tandem with a Web tool developed by the USGS Biological Informatics Program (BIP). The tool allows users to easily access NFHAP data in this national assessment of the condition of fish habitats nationwide.

The assessment is the first step toward facilitating nationally coordinated science-based decisions to direct more effective aquatic habitat conservation activities. The NFHAP report - Through A Fish's Eye: The Status of Fish Habitats in the United States 2010 - summarizes the results of an unprecedented national assessment of the human impacts on fish habitat in the rivers and estuaries of the United States.

The USGS-BIP role in this effort was to help build and host a map-based data viewer for visualizing the data and disseminating it to partners, stakeholders, and other interested parties. The viewer is available through Fish Habitat Action Plan's main site http://fishhabitat.org/ via the "Science and Data" tab at the top of the home page.

"By allowing easy access to the report's results, this tool will enable managers and others to engage in more collaborative and coordinated efforts to support effective conservation and management of fish habitats from headwaters to estuaries," said Andrea Ostroff, a USGS biologist and co-chair of the NFHAP Science and Data Committee, which provided guidance for the development of the web tool.

"In addition," Ostroff said, "being able to visualize the results at multiple scales allows the information to be used at the management and policy levels critical for the strategic decision-making necessary to maximize fish habitat conservation efforts across the country."

Healthy waterways and thriving fish populations are vital to the well-being of American society, providing clean water, food, and recreation. Healthy waters sustain their ecological functions and resilience while meeting many of our nation's social and economic needs.

Ms. Ostroff welcomes comments and recommendations for improvements to this unique Web tool. She can be reached at aostroff@usgs.gov.